The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

25776122Simonson wrote the delightful “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand“, and this book, only her second, is even better. The story takes place in an English village (Rye, in Sussex) before WWI, with all the snobbery and vicious gossip that characterized Downton Abbey. The description of the limited role of women is particularly well-told in this pre-suffragette era. The book ends with a graphic description of the horrors of trench warfare; belligerent and ignorant troop commanders are particularly odious. This is an excellent read.


July 2013

  • Majorr. Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson (very British story of honour and duty, unrequited love, racism and sexism …)
  • The Boy In The Striped Pajamas – John Boyne (the tragedy of the holocaust from the contrasting viewpoints of two nine year-old boys)
  • Behind The Scenes At The Museum – Kate Atkinson (her first book, excellent story-telling, both funny and sad; another “bad mother” book cf. Silver Star)
  • The Painted Girls – Cathy Marie Buchanan (1880s Paris, three sisters and a dissolute single mother; one sister joins the ballet and is the model for Edgar Degas’  “Little Dancer Age 14”. A hard life)